Native American Stone Setting – Sawdust Backing

One day a number of  years ago, I was helping hubby find the size jeans he needed in our local department store. As I slipped my hands in between the stacked jeans to get to the tags, all of a sudden I noticed some little particles on some of the jeans. Eeeowww I thought, there are mice in this store making crumbs from something.

As I yanked my hand out from the stack, I noticed there was a turquoise stone missing from my inexpensive sterling silver and turquoise cuff watch……..and at the bottom of the setting cup were some more of those particles. Upon closer examination I realized it was sawdust.

What the…………??

Well, I came to learn that it is normal operating procedure for Native American artists to “back” stones with a cushion of sawdust. This is in part so that there is some give if the stone is bumped – better to have a shock absorber than the stone be cracked.

Pawn Buckle with Cracked Turquoise Stone

The sawdust also creates some pressure pushing the stone tightly against the bezel. A well designed bezel would never allow a stone to fall out.

Delbert Vandever Navajo Sterling Silver Royston Turquoise Pendant

If a piece with a sawdust-set stone gets wet, the sawdust could swell so much that it could pop the stone out.  That’s one more reason why you should never let your Native American stone pieces get wet.


4 thoughts on “Native American Stone Setting – Sawdust Backing

  1. Sometimes a very small piece of leather will be used instead of sawdust to serve the same purpose. And for sure don’t bathe or go swimming with the jewelry on.


  2. Personally i would advise people to buy jewlery from a real silversmith, not a non-native at a pow-wow or trading post. Not saying its a non natives fault, but they buy the cheapest they can and sell to the public, causing craftsmen to cut corners to put food on the table. I am by no means a silversmith, but i was born and raised deep in the navajo reservation.

  3. I just had a stone replaced in my mom’s shadow box ring. Wore it one time for about a half hour before the stone fell out. It appears they put a piece of cork in the setting and some cheap glue to glue in the thin stone instead of a stone that actually fit the setting. Has anyone ever heard of this practice? I thought backings for thin stones were built up from an epoxy. Dirty Buggers! If I didn’t live out of state, I’d give them a piece of my Italian. Sooz

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